If you’ve ever Shazam-ed music from Euphoria, Yellowjackets, or Atlanta, you have the Emmy-nominated music supervisor Jen Mallone to thank. And if you’ve never heard her name or don’t totally understand what her job entails, that’s okay. Music supervisors are part of an elusive crew, but their work captivates us still. In order to impact audiences the way they do, they have to have a wealth of music knowledge. So, they are on a constant hunt for music. Want to know how music supervisors find the perfect tune for each placement?
What Is A Music Supervisor?
The work music supervisors do is arguably most visible when the perfect songs comes on during a pivotal scene in your favorite film or TV show. Music supervisors are responsible for selecting and licensing the right music for many forms of media; film and TV, but also video games, advertising, etc. They collaborate with show runners, publishers, and composers to find optimal music placements.
But as Mallone points out, being a music supervisor isn’t just about making great playlists. The process of licensing and sourcing music can be a demanding aspect of the role. Music supervisors are forever searching for sync-worthy songs in every genre that match the brief requirements and do not require extra time to record or re-mix. Their responsibilities extend beyond identifying the ideal music, encompassing the acquisition of requisite licenses and permissions from rights holders, as well as the confirmation that every music piece used in a production is legally cleared and appropriately credited.
The most direct way music supervisors find music is via sync licensing music libraries. Every sync libraries carries a vast catalog of music spanning various genres and time periods. Bt using these libraries, music supervisors can source a wide range of songs from one database. In addition to their convenience, sync libraries can be full of hidden gems. Our sync licensing company, BE Music, works regularly with music supervisors. In this way, we’re able to highlight our own hidden gems. If you’re an artist interested in learning about music supervision as a way to get placements for your own work, you should submit to us.
Online Platforms and Social Media
Music supervisors regularly utilize platforms like Spotify, Mixcloud, YouTube, and TikTok to find music for their projects. Industry platforms like DISCO, SubmitHub, ReverbNation, and Vampr also aid in their music discovery. In the digital age, online platforms have become invaluable tools for supervisors. Not only are they key to the discovery of new music, but also to a supervisor’s ability to connect with artists worldwide.
Additionally, music supervisors also utilize social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to connect with artists and follow their work. By searching for hashtags related to specific genres or joining music-related groups and communities, they can easily discover and engage with new talent. Though success is varied, artists are also able to reach out directly to supervisors to pitch their own songs. The possibilities for connecting via online platforms go both ways.
Networking and Industry Connections
As with many aspects of the industry, networking is essential in the music supervisor role. Effective networking within the music industry can help music supervisors discover new artists, and connections at labels allow a direct line for introductions. Sometimes, personal relationships can make the difference of whether a song gets cleared for a project or not. So, having direct relationships with the artists’ whose music you want to use certainly doesn’t hurt.
In the realm of film and TV, music supervisors work closely with producers and directors to choose music that enhances the storytelling and connects with the audience. Supervisors may even get specific requests from directors and show runners. Whether the song is extremely popular or very obscure, there are unique logistical hurdles that come up in the process of clearing music. These require a personal touch, and that elusive thing we call “people skills.”
Music Festivals and Live Performances
Though it’s helpful for a music supervisor to be aware of music trends, they are most successful when they stay ahead of them. So, whether at major music festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, and the Pitchfork Music Festival, or a hole-in-the wall club, attending live performances is a fundamental part of the job. These events provide supervisors with the opportunity to discover emerging artists, to witness their talent and stage presence firsthand, and observe audience reactions. Live events also offer a unique opportunity to connect with artists on a personal level, which as we mentioned, can come in handy.
Collaborating with Composers and Songwriters
Sometimes, a project requires original compositions. Several considerations come with selecting music for brand campaigns, for example. The message and target audience of the campaign, as well as the emotional impact and effectiveness of the music in creating a memorable experience for the audience. Collaboration between music supervisors, composers, and songwriters is essential for the success of these projects.
Through open communication and a shared understanding of the project’s vision, music supervisors can guide composers and songwriters in creating music that not only enhances the storytelling of the visual media but also leaves a lasting impression on the audience. In addition to curating work from our indie artists for potential music placements, BE Music also teams up with composers and songwriters to tailor-make music for projects. The aim is to ensure the chosen music aligns with the project’s vision and augments the overall media experience.
The ultimate goal of a music supervisor is to move an audience. But, there are many logistical aspects of the role that obscure that. Navigating the sometimes complex licensing process, hunting the ends of the music world to find the right songs for a project, and the managing of an allocated budget are unglamorous but essential aspects of the job. In the end, if it leads to thousands of people on Shazam as they cry or gasp at the season finale of their favorite show, there’s the satisfaction of a job well done to make all the mundane aspects of the job worth it.